BookCamp TO: Moving to The How

The first Book Camp Toronto (aka Book Camp TO or #bcto09 for Twitter devotees) was nothing less than a smashing success.

So What Are the Big Questions?

  • DRM: we know that customers don’t like it. We can assume that device-specific files, with no one eReader holding iPod market monopoly, are holding back adoption. But what do we do about it? What is the middle road?
  • International Rights: parceling out territorial rights is a dependable revenue-supplement for Canadian presses but with every eBook available to be viewed/purchased by the entire English language speaking world, this channel is eroded when it’s dropped into the electronic book trade. Should publishers give up the short-term revenue of territorial rights-selling (when print and electronic are demanded in the same package) for the potential of a stronger e-market in the future? Is the short-term hit worth whatever potential sales are coming?
  • Where Should Books Be Discovered?: Amazon? Indigo? Publisher websites? Aggregates of publisher websites? Indie bookstores? With net traffic distributed as it is, publishers don’t always control the way their books are found and they are even less likely to control what other books might be recommended to potential buyers. But the tools on the larger eBook vendors help drive sales for all books (and they are crazy expensive to build in-house).
  • Role of Author: if your author doesn’t want to play digital ball with their own self-promotion, how do you encourage/wheedle/plead for them to get stuck in? Is it always worth it to get your authors on board?
  • What is the New Business Model for Publishing?: if DRM sucks and digital is the way of the future, what existing revenue streams are soon to be dead as dodos? What are they replaced by? It’s not enough to deconstruct (which is a heck of a lot easier than the alternative of construction. We need to know how we keep the business of books alive even while it’s changing. Because it’s important. Period.

What Worked:

  • The Un: most of the sessions that I attended were moderated by really fascinating speakers who were experts in the topic at hand. They presented great snapshots and starting points for the discussion…and then they got out of the way and let the discussion flow.
  • The Timing/Session Numbers/Breaks: the day flew by and I could have stayed for more sessions (on a sunny Saturday. I was surprised too). Logistics were great…enough time to get to every session but still have some hallway chat time.
  • Broad Debate: it didn’t take long to wake the lightly slumbering DRM beast but thankfully not every session I was in focused on it. From Twitter stream, it seems that more than a few got stuck in that mud but thanks to good moderation, the sessions I attended stayed focused on the topic at hand.

For Next Year…?

  • What questions are we trying to answer?: this year, it felt as though a lot of tangled issues arose. Next year, it would be great if some/all/most sessions were focused around questions that attendees tried to answer…the takeaway would be more coordinated and more clear.
  • Speak Up!: I bet everyone in every room had something great to say but most rooms had 5-10 people speaking and a bunch of folks listening. You have the right to comment - it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the business for 20 years or 20 days. The more perspectives in the mix, the better value for all.
  • Leave Personal Agendas At the Doorstep: personal experience is great. Personal promotion is not. The public sessions are not a time to solve individual conundrums, air grievances or belittle those around you for not being as techie/forward-thinking/revolutionary as you wish they would be. Immerse yourself in the sessions, let the discussion move organically (instead of seeking to left-turn for your own sake) and you might just find what you’re looking for anyway.
  • Let Us Leave a Mark: somewhere to share comments, thoughts and inspiration from sessions would allow us all to share in every session and have an idea of what we’re building on from sessions earlier in the day or in previous years. This could be as simple as easel paper outside of every room or as elaborate as a live wiki everyone was encouraged to comment on throughout the day.

Much love and congratulations to the founders of BookCamp TO. Mark Bertils, Hugh McGuire, Alexa Clark, Mitch Joel and Erin Balser. Founders, volunteers and all attendees did an amazing job of bringing an industry that is hungry for hope and community together. Nice work, all. I’m so proud to work in this industry and so glad that all of you do too!